By now, it shouldn't surprise anybody that for the fourth consecutive year, Toyota ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction in Germany, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 study.
Nor is it a shocker that Toyota finished highest in five of the seven vehicle segments, being bested by the BMW 5 series in the executive/luxury segment and the Mercedes-Benz CLK in the sports car segment.
Toyota grabbed the honors in the small car, lower medium, upper medium, MPV and SUV categories.
The J.D. Power folks were quick to point out that nearly all brands improved in customer satisfaction, which lends credence to the claim that the survey helps consumers by prompting automakers to do things better.
But it must be discouraging, especially to German automakers, that German consumers are more satisfied with Toyota. After all, Toyota is a common, ordinary Japanese brand that lacks the proud heritage and tradition of fine German craftsmanship and engineering prowess, etc., etc., etc.
Some cynics might suggest that German brands tend to be arrogant, caring less about the consumer than they do their own resumes.
Perhaps. But it's hard to imagine they could still be making the same mistake they made 15 years ago when they underestimated Toyota's ability to launch Lexus as a serious luxury brand in the United States.
I'll be charitable. Toyota's continuing success in German consumer satisfaction is simply more proof that Germans really do appreciate good automobiles, and they like being treated well.
Sooner or later, there will be changes. Look for Wolfgang Bernhard to lead Volkswagen higher in some of the ratings. That probably will prod Audi on, too. And despite German disdain for French cars, Carlos Ghosn won't be satisfied until Renault fares better.
But keep your eye on the luxury/executive segment. The BMW 5 series is good, but don't forget Toyota is just now cranking up the Lexus brand in Europe. And it has a great diesel engine that will surprise and delight a lot of finicky Germans.
Over the weekend, I saw a Toyota commercial on French TV that poked a little fun at the Germans, suggesting that European engineers would be consternated by the efficient, clean diesel in the Toyota Avensis, which already topped the upper-medium segment. That's a short step away from Lexus luxury.
Yawn if you must. But if you're a German automaker, this is no time for a nap.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at